Susan Smith Blakely

Young Lawyers:  Ask for What You Want!

Asking for what you want?  Ah.  It is much harder than it sounds.  But, you must master the fine art of identifying what you want and asking for it.  Especially at work where every opportunity lost can negatively affect your career path.

My friend Anne Loehr just posted an article about this, and I thank her for that.  As a leadership consultant to companies and firms, she has done a lot of thinking about this.  She isn't always writing for lawyers, but the same rules apply throughout the working world.

Anne rightfully points out that the response "I don't care" is not acceptable.  You have to care.  That is what advocating for yourself is all about.  You cannot rely on others to know what is best for you.

In explaining this in her post, Anne enlisted the help of one of my favorite professional consultants, Jezra Kaye, who specializes in improving public speaking skills.  Her website Speak Up for Success is a gem.  Jezra hones it to a five-step exercise:

  • Know Your Value;
  • Do Your Research;
  • Develop Your Strategy;
  • Plan Your Speech; and
  • Practice, Practice, PRACTICE.

This is all very familiar to me.  Jezra and I have spent hours and hours over coffee, lunch and dinner tossing these concepts around.  She is a pro.  Consult her website, listen to her podcasts, and do what she says.

We all know that self advocating and being direct can be uncomfortable.  But, what's the choice?  Letting your career proceed in the wrong direction to save yourself a little unrest?

Don't expect anyone else to be looking out for you --- it doesn't work that way.  YOU have to develop the sales pitch that tells them what YOU want, why YOU want it, and why they should give it to YOU.

You also have to know why things matter to you.  Be prepared for the push back, and have responses ready.  Be confident in your delivery, and be persistent.  If your request is not granted, try again.  Ask good questions to get information to improve your delivery and turn things in your favor the next time.

And, news flash.  In the legal profession, you are EXPECTED to ask.  You are EXPECTED to be a self advocate.  You are EXPECTED to overcome your anxieties.  How can your managers trust you to advocate for clients if you cannot advocate for yourself?

It is the nature of the beast. Learn to deal.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.

 Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight,, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman,, Georgetown Law Magazine, Legal Toolkit Podcast, and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016”for her work on behalf of women in the law. 

 Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 




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